I was invited on an Oink Outing for Minnesota Pork. I was really excited – I have been a bit obsessed with pigs lately. I’ve always wanted a “pet” pig. When I went to the farm to get my chickens, there was a pot belly pig named Gracie. She came when she was called and did several other tricks. The other day when I was picking up my daughter from school there was a man with a pet pig on a leash. His name? Fonzie.
The idea of a yearly family pig for Christmas dinner is appealing to me. Ever since owning my own home the idea of self-sustainability has invaded my brain. There are many reasons, but the biggest is really just that I’m lucky enough that it’s not completely out of the realm of reality and that I don’t want to take that for granted. I know in our world today it is rare to be able to really be authentic in what you believe in on a daily basis. You might love the idea of organic and local, but you might also live in a city where that’s not realistic. I was really excited to learn what Minnesotan Farmers were doing to make it all work.
Plus, I love pork and there was a cooking demo! I use a lot of pork and chicken if I’m going with meat for protein. I find it easy to work with and their are endless flavor choices (although, I’ve noticed I tend to find my way towards the Asian flavors more often than not). I got a lot of great ideas from Chef Peter Christensen of Woolley’s Steakhouse in Bloomington. I really wish I had eaten more, too!
It actually got me back into the kitchen – and away from Asian flavors for the day. I made a big batch of amazing Pulled Pork using a healthy shaking of his own Cowboy Rub (featuring a smokey coffee kick), my go-to Mesquite Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce (from Costco), my own mess of BBQ sauce, and, thanks again to Chef Peter Christensen, a bit of blackberry jam where I would typically have added some local honey. My family was amazed. Heck, I was amazed! I must admit that the smell of coffee overpowered me at first – but just like the meat, I succumbed to the seasonings and was happy to melt right into it. And, since it was sweet and not too spicy, my kids even gobbled it down.
Ok, see? I obviously love pork because now I’m getting off-track thinking about food and now I’m hungry. I better start talking about the pig farm now. That will solve that problem! And, actually – just to clarify, although it was a pig farm, it wasn’t nearly as smelly as one would expect. And it was so clean! I suppose they do have to be.
After the cooking demo we had a bit of a ride to the farm. Luckily we had Brandon Schafer and his lovely daughter, Maddie, to explain how their farm runs, what role they play in it’s daily operation and ask questions to. I had a really great time talking with them and was really impressed by their knowledge and understanding of farming in today’s world.
I’m really not one to get into the politics of food – yes, I am compassionate about animal rights, I’d rather eat healthy food than junk food (but, hey – you all know I’ve had a Big Mac before) and I have watched documentaries about “industrial farming” that have not sat well with me. But, when it comes down to it, I really believe that this is the world we live in, and if you don’t live in the right city, or have the right land, money, time, you have to do the best you can with what you have and the options out there aren’t as bad as some people want us to think (one of my biggest pet peeves is sensationalism).
The Schafer family has an industrialized pig farm. They are feeding the masses the best way they can. They care about their pigs because they care about the consumer and they care about keeping their operation running. You just can’t have live animals be your business and do a crappy job. You have to care, and I really felt that they did. They put every detail into consideration, from how to handle manure to keep their carbon footprint down to each pig’s pen temperature, and made the best choices they could for their animals and the consumers they would be feeding.
Their farm is the first step in the whole process of where our food is coming from. Once we got there the first thing we saw was a piggy being born. I have always wanted to have a farm, but didn’t grow up on one, so it was a great experience seeing a live birth that way. And, oh my goodness, how cute are little piggies?
It was truly an amazing experience. The biggest thing I got back from it was in the fact that I got to put a face to a name. In this case, the Schafer family is that face, while a package of pork is the name. Being able to hear their perspectives, facts and feelings on industrial farming and making sure that they are doing their best to work with their pigs and our environment just made it all seem more real than just looking at a package in a big store and imagining.